NOBTS adds 4 faculty members

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--Trustees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary elected four professors to the faculty at their spring meeting April 11.

The board elected Mark Tolbert to serve as associate professor of evangelism and pastoral ministry, Dennis Phelps as professor of preaching, Rex Butler as associate professor of church history and patristics (early church fathers), and Tony Merida as assistant professor of preaching.

Tolbert, who also was appointed as director of the doctor of ministry program, has served in ministry for 33 years. During 24 years as a pastor, he led churches in Decatur, Ala., Pine Bluff, Wynne, Little Rock and Pocahontas, Ark., and Santo, Texas. Tolbert also has served as a minister of evangelism and a collegiate minister.

Tolbert holds a master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a bachelor of science degree from Georgia State University.

Tolbert has served as a trustee for GuideStone Financial Resources and on the SBC Tellers Committee.

In 2000, Tolbert taught as an adjunct professor at New Orleans Seminary.

While Tolbert will teach both graduate- and doctoral-level courses, directing the doctor of ministry program at the seminary is his primary role. He began his duties as director of the doctor of ministry program in January.

"We are pleased to have someone with Dr. Tolbert's exceptional ministry experience directing our doctor of ministry program (D.Min.)," NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke said. "Our D.Min. students will appreciate his pastoral wisdom and his passion for evangelism and missions."

Dennis Phelps, who was also appointed as director of church relations and alumni, served for a decade as associate professor of preaching on the faculty at Bethel Theological Seminary, a Baptist General Conference school in St. Paul, Minn. During his days as a doctoral student at Southwestern Seminary, he served as a teaching fellow and grader in the preaching department.

Phelps holds a doctor of philosophy degree in preaching from Southwestern Seminary; an M.Div. from NOBTS; and a bachelor of arts degree in communication arts and public peaking from Louisiana College.

A pastor and evangelist for more than 20 years, Phelps served churches and ministries in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas.

Phelps, who began leading the alumni relations office at New Orleans in December 2006, oversees communication to alumni, state alumni chapters, alumni special events and church-minister relations, and the student and alumni resume referral service.

David Meacham, chairman of the seminary division of pastoral ministries, voiced appreciation for Phelps’ “years of experience in the classroom and the pulpit. He is an excellent scholar who understands the practical aspects of preaching today."

Rex Butler brings a wealth of teaching experience to NOBTS, having served as an adjunct professor at NOBTS since 2004 and earlier as an adjunct at Southwestern Seminary, Tarrant County College in Fort Worth and Wayland Baptist University in Texas.

Butler's position represents an expansion of the church history faculty in response to increased student enrollment as well as greater scholarly specialization.

Butler holds a Ph.D. in church history from Southwestern; a master of arts in religion from Wayland; and a bachelor of arts in English from Texas Tech University.

Butler joins the NOBTS faculty after serving as director of the survey department at Cargill Associates, a fundraising consultation firm in Fort Worth, Texas, since 2000. During his time at Cargill, Butler also served as ministry coordinator and music director at the Waterford Retirement Center Chapel, a mission of Southcliff Baptist Church.

Butler, who has written extensively on the early church in North Africa, recently had a book published on the subject -– "The New Prophecy and 'New Visions': Evidence of Montanism in 'The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas.’"

"Rex Butler has already taught effectively at NOBTS as an adjunct teacher for a couple of years," Lemke said. "His scholarly excellence further enriches and expands our excellent church history department, particularly in the area of patristics."

Tony Merida, who also was appointed as dean of the chapel, comes to NOBTS after serving two years as senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Kenner, La.

A college baseball player at the University of the Cumberlands, Merida made a profession of faith in Christ at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting and soon sensed a call to ministry. A frequent speaker to youth and college students, Merida served as camp pastor for Centrifuge four summers and X-Fuge one summer. He also writes training materials for LifeWay Christian Resources and Student Life Publishing.

Merida holds three degrees from NOBTS: a Ph.D. in preaching, M.Div. with specialization in biblical studies and a master of theology.

"Dr. Tony Merida is an outstanding representative of the up-and-coming generation of preachers in the SBC," Meacham said. "He brings with him valuable experience as a communicator and evangelist. In his role as dean of the chapel, Dr. Merida will be an exceptional example of a preacher of God's Word and a man of Christian character."

During the meeting, NOBTS President Chuck Kelley announced the appointment of Michael Edens as professor of theology and Islamic studies. Edens began serving as associate dean for graduate studies at NOBTS in January.

A missionary with the International Mission Board since 1980, Edens primarily served in the Middle East and North Africa. During his time with the IMB, he served as a strategy coordinator, a strategy associate and worked in leadership development. From 2002-03, Edens was director of overseas relations in the IMB's office of mobilization in Richmond, Va.

Before his appointed by the IMB, Edens pastored for 10 years at churches in Louisiana and Texas.

Edens holds two degrees from NOBTS, a Ph.D. and an M.Div., and a bachelor of arts from East Texas Baptist University. In 1981-82, Edens studied the Arabic language and culture at American University in Cairo, Egypt.

"Michael Edens is already making a great contribution as our associate dean of graduate studies," Lemke said. "Since we live in a world in which Islam has become a primary challenger to Christianity, we look forward to the contribution he will make in helping train the next generation of students how to minister to Muslims."

Kelley announced that Lemke will serve on an interim basis as director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry and occupy the Cooperative Program Chair of SBC Studies. Lemke also will assume a larger teaching role in the area of theology.

Kelley extended the presidential appointment of Jerry Garrard, associate professor of evangelism and church growth. Garrard also serves as the vice president for institutional advancement.

Trustees promoted:

-- Eddie Campbell from assistant professor to associate professor of English in Leavell College.

-- Bill Day from associate professor to professor of evangelism.

-- Archie England from associate professor to professor of Old Testament and Hebrew.

-- Norris Grubbs from assistant professor to associate professor of New Testament and Greek in Leavell College.

-- Francis Kimmitt from associate professor to professor of Old Testament and Hebrew in Leavell College.

-- Becky Lombard from associate professor to professor of music theory and keyboard studies.

-- Jeff Riley from assistant professor to associate professor of Christian ethics.

-- Mike Sharp from associate professor to professor of worship studies.

The board granted tenure to Loretta Rivers, assistant professor of social work, and to Riley.

Sabbatical leaves were granted for Lloyd Harsch, associate professor of church history; Harold Mosley, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew; Joe Sherrer, associate professor of adult education; and Robert Stewart, associate professor of philosophy and theology. Half-sabbaticals were granted to Scott Drumm, associate professor of theological and historical studies in Leavell College, and Steve Echols, professor of leadership.


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